Facebook-Fuelled Telco Uses Crowdsourcing To Deliver Cheaper Phone Rates

Yatango Mobile is the latest telco provider to spring up on the Optus network. Like Amaysim, TPG and the rest, it promises lower monthly rates than the market’s major players — but the way it goes about this is intriguingly different. Billed as the world’s first telecommunication provider to fully integrate itself into Facebook through the Open Graph API, the service allows customers to shape their own plans, earn mobile credit and land better deals via crowdsourcing.

To join the service, customers need to sign up through their Facebook account which acts as a community hub for Yatango members. Once joined, customers can snap up billing discounts by signing up new members or connecting with other Yatango users.

“Yatango utilises a collaborative consumption model, so the more people who join, the cheaper it’s going to get,” boasted Yatango’s Sydney-based founder, Andy Taylor. “It’s really about focusing on the people that you are already connected with on Facebook and connecting with those same people on our platform.”

Yatango is also relying on the crowdsourcing model to provide its own customer support — with billing rewards for tech-savvy advisers. Taylor estimates that around 50 per cent of customer service enquiries will be answered by the community, with a team of Yatango moderators handling trickier questions. (The company currently has a headcount of eight employees, plus one intern.)

“We actually believe we’ve eliminated the top 30 reasons why you’d want to contact a call centre, which are primarily usage inquiries, bill shock and international roaming,” Taylor added.

The service’s other main draw card is its online plan-creator (pictured above), which allows customers to build personalised pricing plans with complete transparency using a series of sliders. Customers are free to adjust everything from SMS messages to mobile data and international voice minutes.

Billing reverts to Yatango’s pay-as-you-go rates if a customer exceeds their nominated limit. Plans can also be changed at any time, with the alterations coming into effect in the next billing cycle.

“This gives our customers more flexibility — for example, if you’re going on holidays for a month, you can ratchet everything right down to zero and just go on a pay-as-you-go structure,” Taylor explained.

Yatango members can also purchase ‘Packs’ of voice, SMS and data which can be monitored and reconfigured at any time.

Privacy concerns

Yatango certainly presents an alluring proposition. But do people really want to integrate more of their life into Facebook? The social networking juggernaut has come under heavy fire in recent years, particularly over the way it handles privacy settings and customer data. We asked Taylor whether he thought anti-Facebook sentiment could present a barrier for his business.

“It’s a good point. We’re certainly going to monitor it and we will look at opening up access to a standard email signup as well so people can effectively disconnect from Facebook if they like,” Taylor said.

“Having said that, we’ve put some pretty rigid privacy controls in our own platform that means you can turn the sharing off if it’s something that you don’t want to participate in.”

Taylor also stated that Yatango customers’ sharing and connections data would not be sold on anywhere else.

“We use that data strictly for internal use so we can shape plans that are more relevant to the customer. It’s stored locally and securely in our own data centres in Brisbane. Selling it [to advertisers] is something we’d never do.”

Yatango is currently a SIM-only service (meaning you’ll need to bring your own phone) and offers bespoke prepaid/post-paid billing plans or pay as you go (PAYG). There are no lock-in contracts. Pay a visit to the Yatango website to learn more.

Would you willingly link your mobile phone plan to your Facebook account? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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